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What's the story behind song leaks?

Katy Perry came out with a "Roar" earlier than expected, while Lady Gaga issued a "pop music emergency" when her song "Applause" apparently leaked online.

These days, it's not uncommon for music to find its way online prior to it hitting the airwaves, or before the artist and label officially make it available for sale digitally.

Whether songs are intentionally leaked or not, the sheer fact that it does "leak" causes a bit of a media firestorm, which oftentimes results in publicity for the artist. Probably not a bad thing.

Chris Mooney, senior director of artist promotions and strategic relationships at TuneCore, told that stats and reports suggest that piracy can hurt sales, but "there is almost always a direct correlation to the popularity of traded files and sales. When full albums are available early, it seems to have a stronger negative affect than just a single. Labels monitor closely these individual tracks on bit torrent and other file sharing sources the same as they will for radio plays and reactions."

So do artists intentionally leak their music, or does it get into the wrong hands? The answer is, it really depends.

Mooney points out how in 2011 Drake staged a faux "Twitter fight" with his label criticizing it for taking down the same music that he himself was sharing. "This is going to be the on-going trend of clashes between a label's protective instincts and an artist's belief in new methods of promotion," noted Mooney.

But then there are cases in which songs or albums actually do surface online both early and unintentionally as it did in 2010 with Taylor Swift's "Mine." It forced Swift to make the track available for purchase about 12 days earlier than originally planned.

"Now, labels are better prepared for leaks with immediate calls to iTunes and stores to make tracks available for sale immediately after a leak has spread," said Mooney of TuneCore, an online music distribution service.

When leaks do happen, they can come through the press via review copies, for example, or even directly from recording studios. "It can be accidental, but once the file is available online, any individual with a copy and a cavalier attitude can anonymously post and make it available to download. Many file trading sites incentivize members to upload new and popular files in order to maintain their download privileges," said Mooney.

However it is happens (a lot of times we'll never find out), it does feel as though leaks are becoming more common in this social media-driven age.

"While many of the more popular trading sites, like Limewire, have largely met their demise and others are in litigation, smaller more insular sites have popped up to replace them. An increase in the availability of high-speed also makes file trading easier," said Mooney.

So, whether it's Lady Gaga rallying against "hackers," or Swift being forced to issue her single early, be prepared for more "pop music emergencies" down the line.

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